Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Finishing the Banksia Quilt

I actually wanted to be working on another quilt which fell out of the sky ( well my one and only fabric shelf in my room as most of my workroom is still packed away awaiting the completion of the shed one day in my dreams...). I had got together all the bits, sorted out what i wanted to do but forgot that at the moment most of my basting pins are in a big forrest quilt which I pinned during the year ( but which is too big for Syria so has been left for a later date) and in the banksia quilt I had been working on. I was anxious to get on with the new idea but will have to finish the banksia quilt first. All the quilts I am making for Syria are between 60-80cm wide and between 130-150 cm long as most of the spac ein the gallery is long narrow spaces.

I always like how the stitching changes the banksia quilts- and in a sense they are really more embroidery than anything else.I often multi layer the thread on the banksia flowers but decided to leave these simply stitched with gold thread. Most of the "Australian" quilts I have made are about my place- the things that surround me, I guess to evoke sense of place and i also wanted to represent banksias in a number of different guises- I still have one to go- and perhaps another if time will allow. Which started me thinking about "series" .Are these banksia ( and I have made a number over the years ) a series? Yes the flower is usually represented in the same way with the embroidery ( though that has started to change of late) but each quilt is quite distinctly different- either through the background fabric ( which i dye with quite a lot of deliberation) the printing that I use and off course colour and then size and even whether I border them. I am not sure - I have never thought of them in that way, as I make them as needs be- if I have an exhibition I always have one banksia quilt because it for me represents home more than anything and then also Australia.

And because I am sitting and sewing and the mind wanders, i dwelt on another thing that was said to me whilst doing my masters by one of the supervisors- that quilts were easy for me and that therefore I wasn't pushing hard enough. I have long pondered this comment- i should have asked where should I push to? And then are quilts easy? I know I make very few quilts which don't have layers of meaning- there is the readily apparent surface but some of it involves personal symbolism, a story- there is often a lot of emotion in my quilts- where do you push to? And whilst i am on this train it was also said I should use the process of weathering destruction and aging and wearing/tearing away, but by nature I am a builder, I build from the bottom up starting with white cloth- making the dye sing is an exciting process for me and then nutting out how to best use that piece of fabric- I accrue steps along the way to build what I am doing- i don't tear away unless it aids the building process. It's almost like I start with the blank page visually though with some thought about ideas and brain storm in the dye bath and build a mind map and go from there. Somehow this process was questioned in what i was doing. I would be interested in what other people think about how they " emerge" their work and how they approach their work.


Anonymous said...

I wonder why easy is so often equated with unworthy? It certainly seems like easy or not, there is a lot to see and think about in your work, if one is willing to look for it. I absolutely agree with you about the building vs. tearing down. So much of the art I see is about deterioration, and yet, like you, I am also a builder. Actually, I think my process is more like a collector or assembler. I like to take existing bits (be they commercial and hand dyed fabrics, piecing and threads or text, typefaces and illustration) and combine them to tell the potential story inside them. That's how i "emerge" my work.

Joyce said...

I agree with Kristin that easy, especially easy looking, should not be called unworthy. Having done a bit of free motion quilting, I know that it is never easy. I also think art is about building. At least quilting is for me. I am trying to get better at seeing what is in a fabric that I have dyed and trying to get something to emerge. I love the way you do that in your quilts. Your embroidery on the Banksias is amazing.

Anonymous said...

i am intrigued by your layered approach and delighted with the tapestry effect acheived with the layers of stitching. i found your blog and will enjoy following your progress.

The Idaho Beauty said...

I think the comment about quilting being easy for you isn't about being technically easy, but more that it is a familiar medium and thus the nuts and bolts of working are familiar. Sound a bit like some of the things Twyla Tharp says in The Creative Way.

She talks about never getting ideas from the same place twice. You gain no new information if you retrace your steps over already familiar land. If you break out of routines and habits, shake yourself up, you're less likely to end up in the same place with the same old ideas. That sounds like she would not approve of working in a series, but I don't agree with that. When you start from the same base, you spend less time getting started and more time exploring new ideas within the series framework.

She also suggests taking away a vital skill to see if you'd still be able to create. How would you overcome teh loss and compensate? What new skill would come to the fore? What can you accomplish without it and what does that say about your work habits and your art, let alone your potential? And if you can do without it, why haven't you? I'm still sitting on the fence on this one, but this may also be what that person was getting at when saying quilting was easy for you.

As for whether or not your banksia quilts are a series, I'd say probably yes. But perhaps you like this better: The latest issue of Quilting Arts has an article about creating a series of THEME-BASED work. I haven't read the article yet but am anxious to. I think this discription fits me better.

As for how my work emerges - I'd say much like yours. Starting with the blank canvas and building upon it, letting each step lead me in the next direction.

Debra said...

At this moment, I simply want to thank you for sharing the photo of working on the quilt. I LOVE the way it looks! The stitching adds a wonderful depth to the piece.

I am going to be thinking about the concepts you discussed at the end before commenting on those further. Except to say that "quilts are easy for you" probably means that you are comfortable with process... not that the process is "easy".

Alison Schwabe said...

Does anyone ever comment to a potter or a wood turner that producing a finely crafted salad bowl "is easy" with the implication that maker should be pushing somewhere "harder"?

And if you are a builder and recognise that in yourself, why should you turn your attention to methods that involved material destruction? While this is currently very " in" and while it may fit with the vision of some in their current work, for you to work this way would be counter to your instincts.

You did say these comments came from a superivisor in your masters - one of his roles IS to question, to push a student beyond his personal comfort zone, but at the same time if often distresses me to see student exhibitions all displaying the same kind of influence in some way! So go with your soul and keep thinking, stay in touch with your vision.

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